17 September 2007
In a continuing demonstration of Israel’s arbitrary denial of entry policy, and disregard for the Palestinian population’s right to practice their religion and worship freely, Father Faris Khaleifat, priest of Ramallah’s Greek Catholic Melkite Church was barred entry to the West Bank on Friday, 14 September.
Father Faris, a holder of both Vatican and Jordanian passports, commented: “For the past six years, I have been traveling regularly between the West Bank and Jordan on church affairs without any problems whatsoever.” Just one week ago, Father Faris traveled to Amman for several days and returned without incident. However, on Friday, his multiple entry visa as a clergyman serving in the occupied Palestinian territory, valid until February 2008, was cancelled by Israeli authorities at the Al Sheikh Hussein Bridge without explanation and he was forced to return to Jordan. His de facto deportation has left the Ramallah parish without its sole clergyman.
Father Faris is one of thousands of foreign passport holders who have been denied entry by the Israeli Authorities over the past several years. The priest’s case is just one of numerous incidents of entry denial documented by the Campaign in recent months, demonstrating that Israel’s regulation of entry into the occupied Palestinian territory by foreign nationals remains arbitrary, abusive and internationally unlawful. Even clergymen are not immune. Israel continues to abuse its control over entry, presence and residency in the occupied Palestinian territory in a manner damaging family life, businesses and the religious and social institutions serving the occupied population.
The Campaign calls on third states, religious leaders and congregations worldwide to protest Israel’s actions harming the Greek Catholic Church and to demand a clear, transparent and lawful policy for all foreign nationals wishing to enter the occupied Palestinian territory.
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